Bob Dylan Countdown #195: “Who Killed Davey Moore?”

I wasn’t alive when Davey Moore was killed in a boxing match in 1963 to inspire Dylan’s song, never released until the Bootleg Series arrived. I was, however, 10 years old and watched the Boom Boom Mancini and Duk Koo Kim fight in 1982, which resulted in Kim’s death as a result of a brutal 14-round TKO at the hands of Mancini.

Mancini was a big deal where we grew up because he was Italian. I remember that, after the fight, my neighbor would teasingly call his little brother “Duk Koo” whenever he would throw him around the back yard. At the time we thought it was hilarious. Stupid kids, I guess.

Anyway, there was outrage after that fight that helped get boxing matches reduced from their typical 15 rounds to the 10 or 12 round standard used today. But the controversy over the Moore fight was much greater, as it came on the heels of several boxing-related fatalities. Everyone from politicians to the Vatican called for the abolishment of the sport. Dylan, in his topical phase, quickly dashed off this effective testament to the scramble by all involved to avoid blame.

I do find it interesting that Dylan played Warren Zevon’s “Boom Boom Mancini” in concert in 2002 as a kind of tribute to Zevon when he was nearing death. The two songs are quite different:  “Boom Boom” is unapologetic and a tribute of sorts, somewhat typical of Zevon’s ballsy outlook. “Davey Moore” isn’t afraid to delegate blame to everyone involved, and I wonder if Dylan’s outlook would have changed had he written the song later in life. (He has been a spectator at several boxing matches since the writing of this song, so his objection to the sport can’t be that vehement.)

I have long since lost interest in the Sweet Science, not so much because of any objections to its alleged brutality, but more so because there are so many competing boxing organizations, each with their respective champions, that it’s simply impossible to follow. As for brutality, mixed martial arts pretty much leaves boxing in the dust these days. With what we know about the dangers of concussions now, it’s pretty difficult to defend either sport. 

Give Dylan credit for nailing the hypocrisy of it all, and even if he was shooting fish in a barrel, he certainly didn’t miss.


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